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Areas of Work

Vision

The Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic protects and improves quality of life in West Virginia through land use planning, land conservation, and education.

Land Conservation

WVU Law LUSD land conservation photo of a waterfall

The LUSD Law Clinic works throughout West Virginia to protect water quality, wetlands, forests, farmland, and open spaces.

Transactional Real Estate Services

The full suite of transactional real estate services includes, but is not necessarily limited to, title services, preparation of option agreements and purchase contracts, deeds, right-of-way agreements, conservation easements, and other transactional instruments.

Negotiation Services

Formal negotiations enable clients to navigate the challenges of contracting to assess the proposed terms and conditions, provide comparisons to market comparables, develop resolutions to disagreements, and ultimately create a satisfactory agreement.

Project Management

Program management involves specialized conceptualization, planning, coordination of resources, and implementation of projects according to specific requirements and constraints, on time and within budget.

Land Use Law and Planning

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The LUSD Law Clinic works with local governments and land use decision-makers to encourage sustainable development in West Virginia communities.

Comprehensive Plans

Comprehensive planning is the process by which West Virginia communities develop a plan for the future for a wide range of issues, including land use, transportation, housing, infrastructure, and recreation. These plans are a prerequisite to land use ordinances and must meet a number of requirements delineated in Chapter 8A of the West Virginia Code, such as review and update at least once every 10 years.

Zoning Ordinances

Zoning ordinances enable West Virginia communities to regulate the use of land, both the activities that are conducted on the land and aspects of the structures placed on the land. Chapter 8A of the West Virginia Code enables communities to use this tool to effectuate plans for the development of a coordinated community.

Subdivision and Land Use Development Ordinances

Also enabled under Chapter 8A of the West Virginia Code, subdivision and land development ordinances govern the process by which land is subdivided and developed to ensure the changes undertaken are completed in an orderly fashion and with the necessary improvements essential to implementing the goals of the community.

Historic Landmarks Commission Ordinances

Enabled under Chapter 8, Article 26A of the West Virginia Code, Historic Landmarks Commissions protect the historic resources of West Virginia communities through inventories, designation, signage, and other means, all of which is performed by a board typically comprised of local individuals with expertise in historic preservation.

Education

Land use planning and legal educational opportunities are provided to the West Virginia community and beyond through the semi-annual Mountain State Land Use Academy, regional conferences, webinars, and speaking engagements, many of which offer Certification Maintenance (CM) credits to American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for lawyers. In addition, the LUSD Law Clinic continually develops resources in the form of checklists, fact sheets, and toolkits to assist communities with the adoption and implementation of plans and the adoption and enforcement of ordinances.

The LUSD Law Clinic is also a founding member of the Mid-Atlantic Planning Collaboration, which provides educational opportunities for planners in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.

Technical Assistance to Local Governments and Public Entities

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Many local governments in West Virginia operate without attorneys or planning staff. For underserved communities in West Virginia, technical assistance is vital for local governments to optimally function and address complex issues, such as those related to internet access, charters, dilapidated structures, flood preparedness, and adequate water and wastewater.

Broadband

Bringing broadband into a community involves navigating complex federal, state, and local law. That said, local governments retain the ability to encourage broadband development and ensure broadband infrastructure is consistent with community priorities.


Dilapidated Buildings

As many as 1 in 16 properties in West Virginia are vacant or abandoned. Neglected properties deter economic development, increase crime, and create safety hazards. Communities overrun with dilapidated buildings have a handful of tools available to them. Simply inventorying dilapidation through Vacant and Uninhabitable Building Registration ordinances allows a community to understand the problem. Regulating unsafe structures by adopting the West Virginia Building Code or International Property Maintenance Code is also an option. In support of redevelopment, local governments may create Urban Renewal Authorities and Land Reuse Agencies.

Flood Resilience

Flooding poses serious risk to human health, safety, and property. Flood resilience is developed through planning efforts to identify preferred development areas and flood overlays, while floodplain ordinances help communities regulate in such a way as to qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Post-flood, recovery efforts require considerable real estate work to support nonprofits and local governments in efforts to rebuild communities.

Water and Wastewater

In West Virginia, 70 of the state’s 538 community water systems are marginal or failing. These systems are continually at risk of unintended disruptions to the drinking water supply, impacting customer health and welfare and impeding local economic development. Meanwhile, nearly 40% of West Virginia residents are not served by a community wastewater system and rely on individual sewage systems or pipe untreated sewage directly into streams. Where public wastewater systems are available, 94% serve fewer than 5,000 customers.